Lesotho leader says army attempted military coup
Political tensions running high in the small African kingdom since parliament suspended
Political tensions have been running high in Lesotho since June when prime minister Thomas Thabane suspended the country’s parliament to avoid a no-confidence vote amid feuding in the two-year-old coalition government.
Lesotho’s prime minister Thomas Thabane today accused the country’s army of attempting a coup against him, he told South African ENCA television station.
“It is a military coup because it is led by the military. And the military are outside the instructions of the commander in chief, who is myself,” he said by telephone.
He added that he would meet South African leaders, representing the regional Southern African Development Community later today.
Military units surrounded government and police buildings and gunfire was heard in the small mountainous southern African kingdom.
“Military police have surrounded State House and there are reports of gunfire,” said one diplomat from the capital Maseru, who asked not to be named.
South African radio stations also reported that private radio stations were off the air in the nation, which is surrounded by South Africa.
Political tensions have been running high in Lesotho since June when Mr Thabane suspended the country’s parliament to avoid a no-confidence vote amid feuding in the two-year-old coalition government.
Deputy prime minister Mothetjoa Metsing had vowed to form a new coalition that would oust Thabane.
Neighbouring South Africa and the regional Southern African Development Community of which Lesotho is a member have warned the political rivals in the country that any unconstitutional change of government would not be tolerated.
Since independence in 1966, Lesotho has undergone a number of military coups. In 1998 at least 58 locals and eight South African soldiers died and large parts of Maseru were damaged during a political stand-off and subsequent fighting.